Its a Friday morning, and even though my habitual self questions me for not reading the Lakshmi Panchali yesterday, i.e. Thursday evening, my thoughtful self could not garner enough strength to read out the Panchali(a Hindu prayer book) yesterday. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, as human beings we play so many roles, goodness gracious! But the pride in me, questioned me on the validity of the text that we read out every Thursday to Goddess Lakshmi(a woman god).
Written sometime in British India, the text of the prayer book(Lakshmi Broto Katha) is outdated and does not reflect modern day life, where women enjoy the same rights as men. In one of the anecdotes, the writer describes of a typical household with no peace and harmony, and describes a typical husband and a typical wife both of home are leading non virtuous lives by wrongdoings. The wrong wife is defined as someone who does not respect and love her husbands relatives, and wants to always live an independent life(most likely wants to have her own household, and not a joint household like in traditional India). She also does not respect her parent in laws, and often uses harsh words against them(is this really a wrongdoing?under what circumstances would a woman use harsh words?, does it really define the righteousness of a wife?). The wrong husband does not love his wife, and is promiscuous and sleeps with other women. There is another instance when, a poor woman with a leper husband prays to Goddess Lakshmi(yes she is a woman God but definitely thinks like a man, why?, because she was defined by a man in the book, of course!). Anyways, after this wretched woman prays to the Goddess, she is blessed with a beautiful son(why not a girl?, of course that cannot be perfect happiness, right?), and her husband recovers from his illnesses and becomes healthy again, and they also get wealth, and have a happy and satisfied life.
The prayer book(Panchali) was written for women, to be read by women and used as a tool to prayto a woman God. The hypocrisy of the situation here is that with so many women involved, and it being a women ritual(it still is in every north east Indian home, followed by millions of women), it has no respect for women, and is designed to portray the man as the special being in every household, who is wrong only when he is promiscuous, while the woman is wrong to ask for her independence, or to even choose who she wants to keep good relations with, when compared on one on one wrongdoings.
To all women, who read the Broto Katha, every Thursday , my question is, not what is right or wrong, but what exactly is human dignity, is it in supporting rituals that were made to protect the wrong men in society or is it to feel important or useful enough as a woman in a society dominated by men?, or is it to proof to your man, how good a woman you are, or more so, to other women how good and loving a wife you are?
For me, if I am praying to a woman God, for the welfare of my household, I might as well do it using a text, that supports the woman in the woman God and myself. So until the day, when a dignified woman comes up with a Lakshmi Broto Katha that supports women, and has the right message conveyed in it, I am done with this ritual!
The highlight of this dialogue, is not to incriminate Hindu religion, but to highlight the need for updated religious texts in context with modern day societies. Imagine the damage, a simple Broto Katha like this may have done to the brains of little boys and girls alike who have heard it every single Thursday of their life, and believed that this was the right way of life! Our thinking about right or wrong, is greatly influenced by religious scriptures, and these scriptures that are being used in Indian households, to this date, were written in ages, where women did not have equal rights, and poverty was imminent in the society, food was in scarcity, and morality was defined by powerful inequalities in society. To all Hindus, who still believe in these nuances, my request is to think before you act! It is not about respecting your religion, it is about respecting what is right, and not respecting what isn't. We have tried to do it over centuries, and have evolved more enlightened, and stronger, I am sure, we will continue to do that in future as well.